Both the Portage
Lakefront and Riverwalk Site at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the
Ogden Dunes public beach have been re-opened, after being closed on Friday,
Nov. 30, following the discovery two days earlier of an unidentified
substance entering Burns Waterway from a pair of U.S. Steel Corporation
The National Park
Service (NPS) said in a statement released after deadline on Tuesday that
“preliminary test results”--conducted by the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management (IDEM)--“did not indicate any known hazardous
substances in the discharge.”
“That discharge has
now ended,” NPS added.
“The closure has
been in effect since Nov. 30 as a precaution to protect the health and
safety of park visitors until the nature of the discharge into the waterway
just east of Portage Lakefront could be determined,” NPS noted. “National
Lakeshore staff worked closely with IDEM and U.S. Steel during the
itself--described as “sudsy” and “frothy”--had not, however, been identified
as of Tuesday afternoon, NPS spokesman Bruce Rowe told the Chesterton
Tribune. IDEM’s first round of tests showed oils and greases to be in
the “permitted range” and failed to show the presence of surfactants,
compounds commonly used in detergents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and
IDEM is now
conducting a second round of tests, Rowe said.
In a statement
released to the Tribune on Tuesday, U.S. Steel said that it was
notified of the discharge of a “foam-like substance” on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
“U.S. Steel and (IDEM) jointly inspected the property and U.S. Steel
notified the National Response Center,” the company said. “Samples from the
site were taken and analyzed at an outside lab, where they were found to be
within normal permitting limits. U.S. Steel will continue to work in
collaboration with IDEM and other appropriate government entities.”
Ogden Dunes Police
Det. Mike Teeling, who was the town’s point man last year when a mechanical
malfunction at U.S. Steel’s Portage facility resulted in the discharge into
Burns Waterway of 300 pounds of a known carcinogen, hexavalent chromium,
told the Tribune that he was informed of last week’s discharge after
it was observed by Susan MiHalo of The Nature Conservancy and several NPS
Teeling said that
the substance--which he described as “sudsy” or “frothy”--was being
discharged from a pair of U.S. Steel outfall pipes on the west side of Burns
Waterway. The pipes, eight to 10 inches in diameter, are used for general
drainage of the property, he said, and the northernmost one is located
fairly close to Lake Michigan.
On being advised of
the discharge, Teeling said that he immediately called his contacts at U.S.
Steel but was unable to reach them. “They have yet to respond to my phone
calls,” he said.
preliminary testing showed “all number readings were within normal discharge
ranges”--“nothing scary,” in other words--the decision was made to close the
Ogden Dunes public beach as a precaution, given the hexavalent chromium
release in April 2017, Teeling said. Signage to that effect was posted and
the public access points to the beach were taped closed.
On the other hand,
Teeling noted, Indiana American Water Company did not close its Ogden Dunes
intake pipe or its filtration plant.
In April, one year
after the hexavalent chromium release, U.S. Steel and the U.S. Department of
Justice agreed to a consent decree, under which the company would pay a
$600,000 civil penalty and $630,000 more to reimburse various U.S. EPA and
NPS for costs and damages.
That consent decree
was immediately met with skepticism by environmental groups like the
National Parks Conservation Association, who said that the decree lacked
both transparency and teeth.